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11 July Current Affairs

Worker safety code Bill gets Cabinet approval

In News:

A Bill that seeks to merge 13 labour laws into one code on occupational safety, health and working conditions that would apply to all establishments with 10 or more workers was approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, paving the way for its introduction in Parliament.

Details:

The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019, which would impact “40 crore unorganised workers”, was approved at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

The Bill was the second of four proposed codes that aim to merge 44 labour laws, with the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 that was approved previously being the first.

While the code will be applicable to all trades, including IT establishments and service sector, where more than 10 workers are employed, it will be applicable to mines and docks that employ even one worker. The code also framed rules for women workers working night shifts.

“Women permitted to work beyond 7 p.m. and before 6 a.m. subject to the safety, holidays, working hours or any other condition as prescribed by appropriate government in respect of prescribed establishments. However, only after taking their consent for night work (sic)”.

The 13 Central Labour Acts:

  • The Factories Act, 1948;
  • The Mines Act, 1952; The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986;
  • The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996;
  • The Plantations Labour Act, 1951;
  • The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970;
  • The Inter-State Migrant workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979;
  • The Working Journalist and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service and Misc. Provision) Act, 1955;
  • The Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958;
  • The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961;
  • Sales Promotion Employees (Condition of Service) Act, 1976;
  • The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966; and
  • The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981. After the enactment of the Code, all these Acts being subsumed in the Code will be repealed.

Benefits:

Safety, Health, welfare and improved Working Conditions are pre-requisite for well-being of the worker and also for economic growth of the country as healthy workforce of the country would be more productive and occurrence of less accidents and unforeseen incidents would be economically beneficial to the employers also. With the ultimate aim of extending the safety and healthy working conditions to all workforce of the country, the Code enhances the ambit of provisions of safety, health, welfare and working conditions from existing about 9 major sectors to all establishments having 10 or more employees.

India can repeal Article 370 at will: Centre

In News:

The government informed Parliament that “no foreign government or organisation has any locus standi” in repealing Article 370 in J&K as matters relating to the Constitution were internal and only for the Indian Parliament to deal with.

What is locus standi:

In law, locus standi means the right to bring an action, to be heard in court, or to address the Court on a matter before it. Locus standi is the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case.

Details:

While responding to a question on whether repeal of Articles 370 and 35A will in any way violate any United Nations regulation or any international obligation of the country, “Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Matters relating to the Constitution of India are internal and entirely for the Indian Parliament to deal with. No foreign government or organisation has any locus standi in the matter.”

What is Article 35A?

Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature a carte blanche to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.

The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.

What is Article 370?

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370.

All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K.

Important provisions under the article:

According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.

  • Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression. The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.
  • Under Article 370, the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the state.
  • The Jurisdiction of the Parliament of India in relation to Jammu and Kashmir is confined to the matters enumerated in the Union List, and also the concurrent list. There is no State list for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • At the same time, while in relation to the other States, the residuary power of legislation belongs to Parliament, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the residuary powers belong to the Legislature of the State, except certain matters to which Parliament has exclusive powers such as preventing the activities relating to cession or secession, or disrupting the sovereignty or integrity of India.
  • The power to make laws related to preventive detention in Jammu and Kashmir belong to the Legislature of J & K and not the Indian Parliament. Thus, no preventive detention law made in India extends to Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policy) and Part IVA (Fundamental Duties) of the Constitution are not applicable to J&K.

NATO ally status unlikely now

In News:

The U.S. House Committee on Rules voted to send a watered-down version of an amendment to enhance defence cooperation with India to the full House floor for a vote.

Details:

The new India NDAA amendment, a part the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) FY 2020, replaces a significantly stronger amendment (the “Sherman Amendment”) that sought to place India on a par with the U.S.’s NATO allies by amending the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), a U.S. law that governs the sale of high-end defence equipment to other countries.

Concerns over India’s purchase of the S-400, turf battles between the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees and some State Department opposition are likely to have contributed to the watering down of the amendment. Nevertheless, what passed the Senate and what is being considered by the House, provides some direction to the executive with regard to bolstering India-U.S. defence cooperation, although falling short of the original legislative goal. This comes days after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo travelled to New Delhi to push for stronger U.S.-India ties across the board.

About NATO:

  • It is an intergovernmental military alliance.
  • Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.
  • Headquarters — Brussels, Belgium.
  • Headquarters of Allied Command Operations — Mons, Belgium.

Significance: It constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.

Objectives:

Political – NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.

Military – NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under the collective defence clause of NATO’s founding treaty – Article 5 of the Washington Treaty or under a United Nations mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organisations.

Single tribunal to hear water disputes

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that will help adjudicate disputes relating to waters of inter-State rivers and river valleys. A version of this bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017 but it subsequently lapsed.

Details:

The Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to streamline the adjudication of inter-State river water disputes.

Features of the Bill:

A key feature of the bill is the constitution of a single tribunal with different Benches, and the setting of strict timelines for adjudication.

“When any request under the Act is received from any State Government in respect of any water dispute on the inter-State rivers and the Central government is of the opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, the Central Government constitutes a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication of the water dispute”.

There are about a dozen tribunals that now exist to resolve disputes among States on sharing water from rivers common to them. The standalone tribunal so envisaged will have a permanent establishment and permanent office space and infrastructure so as to obviate with the need to set up a separate Tribunal for each water dispute, a time consuming process.

Dispute Resolution Committee:

The Bill also proposes a Dispute Resolution Committee set up by the Central Government for amicably resolving inter-State water disputes within 18 months. Any dispute that cannot be settled by negotiations would be referred to the tribunal for its adjudication. The dispute so referred to the tribunal shall be assigned by the chairperson of the tribunal to a Bench of the tribunal for adjudication.

Composition:

The Bill can also affect the composition of the members of various tribunals, and has a provision to have a technical expert as the head of the tribunal. Currently all tribunals are staffed by members of the judiciary, nominated by the Chief Justice.

Some of the Inter-State Water Disputes and States Involved:

  • Narmada Water Dispute- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
  • Mahi River Dispute- Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
  • Ravi and Beas Water Dispute- Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi
  • Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Dispute- Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan
  • Yamuna River Water Dispute- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
  • Karmnasa River Water Dispute- Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
  • Barak River Water Dispute- Assam and Manipur
  • Cauvery Water Dispute- Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka
  • Krishna Water Dispute- Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
  • Tungabhadra Water Dispute- Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
  • Aliyar and Bhivani River Water Dispute- Tamil Nadu and Kerala
  • Godavari River Water Dispute- Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh.

Some facts:

  1. Inter-State River Water Disputes Act 1956 extends to the whole of India.
  2. The Act provides for resolution of water disputes.
  3. Inter-state water disputes are different from other Inter-state disputes.
  4. Constitution bars the jurisdiction of any other court over water disputes.
  5. The disputes are to be adjudicated by ad-hoc, temporary and exclusive tribunals.
  6. The tribunals are dissolved after they give away the awards.
  7. Awards carry the force of a Supreme Court decree and are binding on the states for a period of 25-30 years.
  8. This arrangement has not been effective and suffered from several governance challenges.
  9. When states approach SC, the bar on its jurisdiction puts restrictions on the court.
  10. Supreme Court has had to limit its role to providing clarifications, leaving states discontent.

Death penalty for child abuse

The Union Cabinet approved an amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The Bill, which had been introduced earlier but lapsed in Parliament when the Lok Sabha was dissolved, was approved by the Cabinet. The Bill provides for stringent punishment, including death, for sexual assault of children.

POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012):

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

Role of police: The Act casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process. Thus, the police personnel receiving a report of sexual abuse of a child are given the responsibility of making urgent arrangements for the care and protection of the child, such as obtaining emergency medical treatment for the child and placing the child in a shelter home, and bringing the matter in front of the CWC, should the need arise.

Safeguards: The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system. It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a manner that is as child-friendly as possible. Hence, the child may have a parent or other trusted person present at the time of testifying and can call for assistance from an interpreter, special educator, or other professional while giving evidence. Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.

Mandatory reporting: The Act also provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences. This casts a legal duty upon a person who has knowledge that a child has been sexually abused to report the offence; if he fails to do so, he may be punished with six months’ imprisonment and/ or a fine.

Definitions: The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age. It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography. It deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.

Lok Sabha gives nod to arbitration Bill

In News:

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday cleared the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019.

Details:

The Bill, which replaces an Ordinance promulgated in March this year, provides for the incorporation of the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) for creating an autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration.

Composition:

  1. New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) will be headed by a chairperson who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of a High Court or an eminent person, having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration law or management, to be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  2. There will be two Full time or Part time Members from amongst eminent persons having substantial knowledge and experience in institutional arbitration, both domestic and international.
  3. Also, one representative of a recognised body of commerce and industry shall be chosen on rotational basis as Part time Member.
  4. Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs, Financial Adviser nominated by the Department of Expenditure and Chief Executive Officer, NDIAC shall be ex-officio Members.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a settlement of dispute between two parties to a contract by a neutral third party i.e. the arbitrator without resorting to court action. The process can be tailored to suit parties’ particular needs.

Arbitrators can be chosen for their expertise. It is confidential and can be speedier and cheaper than court. There are limited grounds of appeal. Arbitral awards are binding and enforceable through courts.

Bill to tackle ponzi scams

In News:

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister approved ‘Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2019’ to tackle the menace of ponzi schemes in the country.

Details:

The Bill, which will replace the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance, 2019, will be introduced in the ongoing session of the Parliament. “SEBI and RBI approved deposits will be allowed.

About Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance, 2019:

  • Substantive banning clause which bans Deposit Takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme.
  • Creation of three different types of offences, namely, running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes, fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.
  • Severe punishment and heavy pecuniary fines to act as deterrent.
  • Provisions for disgorgement or repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes nonetheless manage to raise deposits illegally.
  • Attachment of properties / assets by the Competent Authority, and subsequent realization of assets for repayment to depositors.
  • Clear-cut time lines have been provided for attachment of property and restitution to depositors.
  • Creation of an online central database, for collection and sharing of information on deposit-taking activities in the country.

 

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